Tuesday, 7 April 2009


A visit to the churchyard where my partner's ancestors are buried brought home to me the lost art of writing epitaphs. Some time around the late 18th century we seem to have lost the art - or the confidence - to write interesting epitaphs which are not either hopelessly mawkish or sentimental. Two of my favourites - both from Sussex churches read thus:

The first is to one John Parson, dated 1633, in West Tarring churchyard. It carries a short, deftly informative but painfully evocative verse:

Young was his age
Virginity his state
Learning his love
Consumption his fate

A more philosophical one can be found in the porch of St Nicholas' church in Poling: It is dedicated to Alice, the wife of Robert Woolldridge, who died on 27th May 1740, aged 44 years. It has a wonderful rhyme, and one which is not entirely inappropriate for our own celebrity- and wealth-obsessed times:

The World is a round thing
And full of crooked streets
Death is a market place
Where all Men meets
If Life was a thing
That money could buy
The Rich would live
And the Poor would dye

I wonder if you could get away with saying that, now?

Ideal Home time again

The walkway I use to and from the underground station at Earl's Court is constantly thronged by people, so I surmise the Ideal Home show must have arrived at Earl's Court exhibition centre. (That also helps explain the puzzle of why Ikea posters have appeared all over the station like a rash).

This year the whole thing seems a little subdued, however. I suppose an event so inherently built on the idea of property ownership is bound to have lost some of its glow, given the slide in house prices and the fact that it was the housing bubble that helped get us into the current mess.

Still, there still seem to be plenty of stalwarts intent on a good day out. The publicity promises a very different event from the ones I was dragged around when I was a child. Although the show homes are still there, the emphasis is as much on the outside as the inside these days, with gardening makeovers as popular as new gadgets (noticeably fewer of those emerging with the crowds, this year). And the visitors make good fodder for the rounds of TV programmes filmed in the exhibition - is it me, or is there something faintly ironic about going to look at an exhibition and then being filmed yourself?

Most interestingly of all, however, are the posters that I have finally noticed, promoting the sponsors, EDF. They are bright pink, and make quite a big thing about CO2 emissions and climate change. Now that's an encouraging sign of the times.